And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.
Lately, my life has been so noisy that shouting at the top of your lungs might not even get my attention. From one thing to the next, two jobs and training for a race and (trying) to keep up with a house and relationships. I sit down for a few minutes in the early morning with my open Bible on my life and I can’t concentrate. My mind is already racing ahead of me. I realize I have forgotten how to stop and to think.
And I crave Rest. All the time it is tauntingly out there. I run toward it but its horizon is never nearer. I need it.
We just had Holy Week. Good Friday came and we sat in a dimly lit sanctuary with the Cross stretching in front of us. And all was quiet. Meditating on what it means that the Righteous One died. Mourning our sins that put Him there. We settled into the brokenness — our broken hearts, His broken body, and then, on Sunday morning, the broken shackles.
Easter morning, the tumult in my heart was fierce. I wanted – and in my mind justly so – to be rejoicing with the Body. To see the sanctuary transformed from solemn Friday to colorful Sunday. I wanted to put on a bright dress, sing resurrection songs and make a big feast with loved ones. I need that. Instead, my Easter was spent with people who wore hospital gowns and ate Jello cups for dinner. On this day about new life, I was still experiencing the brokenness, the old life, and even death. I spent many minutes in the sterile colorless room of a kind-eyed man who told me he was dying. There were no visitors there to hold his hand, no flowers on the windowsill to speak loving wishes. I wish I could say I had a comforting word to speak, but I just stood there, tears in my eyes, and listened to a dying man talk.
It was not until later that day that I glimpsed the Easter in the broken.
Standing over the kitchen sink, just letting warm water flow over my hands. Letting it saturate into my skin, into my heart as I stand there in the beautiful quiet.
Cup my hands, capture the fullness.
And I am struck by the thought – this earth, that hospital room, this abundant never-ending stream running through my fingers, is full of the steadfast love of the Lord. Because, one morning so long ago, Jesus proved His Love was greater than Death, His Life was stronger than the grave. Hope was resurrected and Hope remains alive, here, right now.
But so often, I miss it. Caught up in the noise around me, I fail to hear the low whisper, that still small voice. God telling me who He is. To stop holding on to my false sense of control and to hold on to Him.
What would you say if someone asked you, “What is your only comfort in life and death?” Or what if they phrased it like this: “What is the armchair that you could ride down a raging waterfall and still be as secure and at peace as if you were napping in your living room?”
What would you say?
Would it be your family or friends? Your job or your hobbies? Food or clothes or a building bank account? Or maybe, like me, you find comfort when all of these things seem to align for a brief happy second and you hold your breath, willing it to stay that way.
But…you know, I know, no earthly person is resilient or fail-proof to hold us safe when the waterfall comes. No job can build walls strong enough to stand the pounding water force. And anything you clutch tightly in your hands will be dented and damaged beyond repair.
In none of these things can you really rest. You will always be holding your breath, dreading that inevitable moment when it all falls apart and you are struggling on your own again.
So what if rest – true rest — isn’t about what we have but about Who has us?
What is your only comfort in life and in death?
That I am not my own,
but belong with body and soul,
both in life and in death.
He has fully paid for all my sins
with his precious blood,
and has set me free from all the power of the devil.
He also preserves me in such a way
that without the will of my heavenly Father
not a hair can fall from my head;
indeed, all things must work together
for my salvation.
So now what?
Therefore, by his Holy Spirit
he also assures me of eternal life
and makes me heartily willing and ready
from now on to live for him
Can you picture it? Can you find your soul letting out that stale held-up breath and for the first time breathing in Life?
It’s a Love that will not let you go, that will hold you tightly, yet so gently, all the way down the raging waterfall. In this treadmill, rat race, circus of a world, Rest is not one more thing you do – it is the One you know. It is true: our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.
This is what I want to do well. To become practiced in the being still and the knowing, saturated in the fullness of who He is for me. He is mighty, He is all-knowing and knowing all He still chooses to love. He loves completely…and He is here and He is here with me.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
To rest is to be with God and to, as a wise man put it, practice the presence of God.
“Thank Him for the graces, past and present, He has bestowed on you, in the middle of your troubles to take solace in Him as often as you can. Lift up your heart to Him during your meals and in company; the least little remembrance will always be the most pleasing to Him. One need not cry out very loudly; He is nearer to us than we think.”
When the Israelites marched into the desert – the biggest and scariest and most challenging adventure of their lives – they were led by the promise of Yahweh: “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” You are not doing this on your own. I am here and I will see your journey to its end
To rest is to be grateful. Because when my identity is secure in Christ and I see how His presence invades every space of my life – the ups and the downs – my eyes are opened to all the daily many expressions of grace that mark my days.
And in that posture of gratitude, life is not only Rest, it is also Worship.
Twice a month I drive eighty miles through rocky mountain canyons and across open snowy plains for a work assignment in a remote Montana town. No cell signal, fuzzy radio waves, there is time to listen to my thoughts (how often do I just do that?). Time to lift those thoughts to God. I’ve grown grateful for those ninety minutes of renewing quiet.
I’m learning that it is so much more than ninety minutes of obvious solitude. It’s washing the dishes, running in the rain, chatting with the grocery checkout guy, going on rambling evening walks, eating oatmeal in the car, folding laundry. It’s all of it.
Let’s focus on the fullness of this very moment. The mundane and the glorious – and in both give thanks, so that our lives become a liturgy, a practice of gratitude. Worship and gratitude as natural as breathing. Take in the gift of each day, saturate your heart sponge with the morning’s new mercies and let that grace spill out on thirsty souls around you. Don’t wait until your schedule calms down and your world slows. Step forward into this day with the steadying knowledge that God’s sovereignty and goodness goes before you – no part of your life escapes Him. Take heart, breathe deeply, and give thanks.
Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth!”
Be still and know that He is good.
Be still and know that He is faithful.
Be still and know that He is present.
Be still and know that He is gracious.
Exalt Him in your being still and knowing.
Return, O my soul, to your rest;
for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.
God has showered you with blessings.
Soul, you’ve been rescued from death;
Eye, you’ve been rescued from tears;
And you, Foot, were kept from stumbling.
Each moment, when known as a gift, is grace shower to parched weary lips.Don’t pass them by. Slow down, be gripped the love of the Father that is redeeming all things and is Forever.
O Love that will not let me go. Here is my weary soul – take it, keep it. It is safe with You.
Scriptures in order of appearance: 1 Kings 19, Psalm 33, Matthew 11 (the Message), Exodus 33, Psalm 46, Psalm 116 (ESV & the Message translations) Quotes: Heidelberg Catechism, St Augustine, Brother Lawrence